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Donohoe and O'Gorman announced the funding at a press conference this afternoon. Jane Matthews
Budget

Extra €1b announced for Ukrainian accommodation as Minister confirms tents may be used over winter

Currently, 800 people are being housed in tents.

THE MINISTER FOR Integration has confirmed that tents will likely continue to be used over the winter months as the Government announces an additional €1b to meet the accommodation costs for Ukrainian people fleeing the war and those seeking international protection.

The Government approved today an estimated €1b in supplementary funding for the Department of Children, Integration and Equality.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said that this additional funding comes from funds set aside as part of Budget 2023 to meet non-core pressures such as this. 

“The state has to work extremely hard to manage the significant influx of people from Ukraine since the onset of Russia’s invasion,” Donohoe said. 

The number of Ukrainian people now in state-provided accommodation in Ireland is currently 70,000. Additionally, some 23,200 people have come to Ireland so far this year seeking international protection – up from 8,600 in January. 

“This is a trend being experienced across the EU with over half a million asylum applications being received by EU countries, in the first half of 2023,” Donohe said.

Minister O’Gorman said that because of supply constraints, the provision of accommodation will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future and there will be “an ongoing reliance on contingency measures”.

At the moment, approximately 800 individuals (500 Ukrainians and 300 international protection seekers) are being sheltered in tents provided by the state. 

There have been reports of poor conditions in these tents with concerns for individuals housed here as we enter the winter months. 

When asked by The Journal today if people will continue to be housed in tents over winter, Minister O’Gorman responded: “It is possible going forward, yes.”

O’Gorman said that it is likely we will see tented accommodation continue to be part of the state’s response going forward.

O’Gorman was also asked by The Journal if the Department has an estimate of how many people will be accommodated in tents going forward and for how long.

He responded: “We don’t have an estimate on that. I’ve been very clear, I want to have the minimum number in tents as possible and I’d like that number to be zero.

“But I just have to recognise that in the context of the real challenges that we are under – we saw what happen earlier this year when we weren’t able to provide accommodation for people at all and that is the absolute worst circumstance – because when we have tented accommodation and ancillary services surrounding it, at least people have shelter and security.”

“So I want to reduce tent use where we can. As I say it’s 800 now out of 93,000 people so it’s just important to keep that context in mind. But I’d like to reduce this completely but just with the pressure right now, I have to anticipate that it will remain part of the approach,” he added.

‘Unacceptable’

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has said that the sheltering of such a high number of people in tents is unacceptable.

“We’re in an emergency situation, but we’ve been in an emergency situation for a very long time now,” she said.

“Really what we need to see is a strategy and a plan to deal with this, rather than being constantly in a situation where we’re finding the absolute minimum level of shelter.

“We all know what the climate is in Ireland. It’s very wet, it’s cold, and going into winter it’s not acceptable.”

Meanwhile, Labour TD Aodhan Ó Riordán said of the crisis: “There has to be a baseline of decency that our country has and accommodation in tents doesn’t meet that baseline of decency.”

Refugees, asylum seekers, and homeless people living in sub-par accommodation have “been let down” by the State, according to People Before Profit TD Mick Barry.

“It’s completely unacceptable that refugees or asylum seekers are forced to live in tents, all the more so coming into the colder weather and the winter period,” he said.

Additional reporting from Mairead Maguire.